'How to count sperm properly': checklist for acceptability of studies based on human semen analysis

Lars Björndahl (Lead / Corresponding author), Christopher L. R. Barratt, David Mortimer, Pierre Jouannet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


STUDY QUESTION: Can a tool be developed for authors, reviewers and editors of the ESHRE Journals to improve the quality of published studies which rely on semen analysis data?

SUMMARY ANSWER: A basic checklist for authors, reviewers and editors has been developed and is presented.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Laboratory work which includes semen analysis is burdened by a lack of standardization. This has significant negative effects on the quality of scientific and epidemiological studies, potential misclassification of patients and the potential to impair clinical treatments/diagnoses that rely on accurate semen quality information. Robust methods are available to reduce laboratory error in semen analysis, inducing adherence to World Health Organization techniques, participation in an external quality control scheme and appropriate training of laboratory personnel. However, journals have not had appropriate systems to assess if these methods have been used.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: After discussion at a series of Associate Editor Meetings of the ESHRE Journals the authors of the present text were asked to propose a tool for authors, reviewers and editors of the ESHRE Journals to ensure a high quality assessment of submitted manuscripts which rely on semen analysis data, including a detailed verification of the relevance and the quality of the methods used.


MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: A basic checklist for authors, reviewers and editors is presented. The checklist contains key points which should be considered by authors when designing studies and which provides essential information for when the submitted manuscript is evaluated. For published articles the answers in the checklist are suitable to be available as supplementary data, which will also reduce the space necessary for technical details in the printed article.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Guidelines such as these should not be used uncritically. It is therefore important that submitting authors, in situations where their study does not comply with the basic requirements for semen analysis, not only explain all methodological deviations but also declare the level of uncertainty in their analyses and how it complies with, or might confound, the aims of the study.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The fundamental importance of appropriate and robust methodology to facilitate advances in scientific understanding and patient management and treatment, is now accepted as being paramount. Use of the semen analysis checklist should be part of this process, and when completed and signed by the corresponding author at the time of submitting a manuscript should result in greater transparency, and ultimately uniformity. It is hoped that this initiative will pave the way for wider adoption of the methodology/reporting by other biomedical, epidemiological and scientific journals, and ultimately become the standard of practice for papers reporting semen analysis results obtained in laboratory and clinical andrology. Systems to assist referees, authors and editors to present high quality findings should have a significant impact on the field of reproductive medicine.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: No funding was obtained for this work. The authors have no competing interests in relation to the present publication and checklist.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-232
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number2
Early online date18 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Checklist
  • Editorial Policies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicals as topic
  • Semen analysis
  • Journal article


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